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Health Headlines - March 18

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:25pm
Senate Adds $500 Mln for Global AIDS Fund

The U.S. Senate on Thursday backed a $500 million increase in funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, almost tripling the sum asked for by President Bush.

Maggots...coming to a Hospital Near You

Phyllis Hulme's family and friends were aghast when she told them doctors planned to put maggots on her leg ulcer.

"I got some horrified looks. I think they thought: she's old, she doesn't know any better, she's gone a bit gaga," said the 81-year-old, who suffers from diabetes.

"But it's been marvelous. I used to feel like screaming sometimes, the pain was so bad, and the first night they were on the pain went."

It may sound gruesome, but it turns out that maggots are remarkably efficient at cleaning up infected wounds by eating dead tissue and killing off bacteria that could block the healing process.

Maggot medicine, in fact, has a long history. Napoleon's battle surgeon wrote of the healing powers of maggots 200 years ago, and they were put to work during the American Civil War and in the trenches in World War One.

With the arrival of modern antibiotics in the 1940s, however, maggots were consigned to the medical dustbin.

Now a new generation of physicians, keen to cut back on antibiotic use, is waking up to the creatures' charms. Some believe maggots are one of the most effective ways of treating wounds infected by the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

In a bid to prove the case for maggots conclusively, Dr Pauline Raynor of the University of York is recruiting 600 patients across Britain for the world's biggest ever maggot trial.

Her three-year study is being keenly watched by doctors and wound care specialists around the globe.

One third of patients -- selected at random -- will be treated with loose maggots, held in place by a dressing; one third with maggots contained in a gauze bag; and one third with hydrogel, a standard wound-cleaning therapy.

DON'T BE SQUEAMISH

So far, most patients have been enthusiastic -- once they are reassured that the sterilized greenfly larvae will not start burrowing into healthy flesh.

"These maggots are only interested in dead and unhealthy tissue. Rather than strip a leg, they will start eating each other instead," Raynor said.

"Some patients obviously aren't very keen, but we've found the majority are willing to take part. It has not been a problem in terms of squeamishness."

The maggots are tiny when applied to the wound but can grow to half a centimeter after they have eaten their fill.

In the long run, maggots could save patients a lot of pain -- and governments a lot of money -- if wounds heal faster.

Britain alone spends some 600 million pounds ($1.15 billion) a year treating leg ulcers, which affect 1 percent of the population and can persist for years.

Conventional treatment may take months, while maggot therapy normally involves just two or three sessions, each of 3 days.

Dr Kosta Mumcuoglu of the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, who has been practicing maggot therapy since 1996, says international interest in the treatment is growing fast.

"It's becoming much more acceptable. It is changing from an alternative treatment to a conventional method," he said.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved maggots as a "medical device" and Britain has also made them available on prescription within the National Health Service, demonstrating how maggots are entering the mainstream, he said.

BUG BUSINESS

Mumcuoglu is president of the International Biotherapy Society, which supports the medical use of living organisms to fight disease -- including bee venom for rheumatism and leeches to clear congested blood in plastic surgery.

He estimates there are now 2,000 practitioners of maggot therapy and more than 20,000 people have been treated since the mid-1990s, mainly in Britain, Germany, the United States and Israel.

That has created a niche business in breeding surgical grade fly larvae. Produced from sterilized eggs, a batch of maggots for treating one wound sells for around 80 to 100 pounds ($153-$192.

Commercial companies already exist in Germany, and the Biosurgical Research Unit at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Wales -- Britain's sole maggot breeder -- plans to spin off its production operation in April to create a new firm, Zoobiotic Ltd, with the backing of venture capitalists.

"We've got big ambitions," said unit head Dr Steve Thomas, who will be technical director of the new firm. "There has been a substantial increase in demand in maggot usage over the last 5 years, and it's growing year by year." ($1=.5199 Pound)

Sleep Breathing Problem Raises Heart Attack Risk

People who suffer from an illness that disrupts their breathing while they sleep are more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke, Spanish researchers said on Friday.

Acupuncture Shown to Relieve Pelvic Pregnancy Pain

Acupuncture and exercise can help relieve pelvic pain during pregnancy, Swedish researchers said on Friday.

Perdue Recalls 230,700 Pounds of Chicken Strips

Privately held Perdue Farms on Thursday recalled 230,700 pounds of cooked chicken breast strips due to possible underprocessing, the U.S. Agriculture Department said.

Gene Mutation Allows Aspirin's Anti-Polyp Effect

Regular aspirin use reduces the risk of colon polyps in women with a common gene mutation that slows aspirin breakdown, a new study shows. In contrast, when this mutation is absent, aspirin seems to have no effect on polyp risk.

High Cholesterol Drives Prostate Cancer

High blood cholesterol can make prostate tumors grow faster, researchers said on Thursday in another study linking high-fat diets with prostate cancer.

Xolair 'Add-On' Useful in Uncontrolled Asthma

Individuals with severe persistent asthma who fail to gain adequate control despite standard treatment with multiple anti-asthma drugs, may benefit from the addition of Xolair (omalizumab), a study suggests.

Eli Lilly Adds Warning to Sepsis Drug Xigris

Eli Lilly and Co. added a warning to its sepsis drug Xigris after two trials linked it to a higher death rate in patients who have single organ dysfunction and have recently had surgery, a company letter made public on Thursday said.

Long-Acting Insulin Unaffected by Exercise

In people with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes, exercise does not appear to increase the rate of absorption of insulin glargine (Lantus), a long-acting insulin analog, according to study findings.

FDA Approves New Diabetes Drug Symlin

A new drug for diabetics who can't adequately control their blood sugar with insulin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

Medicare to Cover Costs of Stent Procedure

The federal government announced Thursday that it would begin covering the cost of an expensive medical procedure for certain Medicare patients at high risk of stroke because of a blockage in their carotid arteries.

Study: More Young Teens Use Inhalants

Nearly one of every dozen 12- and 13-year-olds has used inhalants such as glue or shoe polish to get high, a government study says.

Report: Obesity to Lower U.S. Life Span

U.S. life expectancy will fall dramatically in coming years because of obesity, a startling shift in a long-running trend toward longer lives, researchers contend in a report published Thursday.

Bush FDA Choice Rattles Advocacy Groups

President Bush's nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration sidestepped allegations from Senate Democrats that something was awry at the agency, but he promised he would improve its drug safety reviews.

Push for Cancer Treatments Intensifies

The war on cancer has some fortified soldiers. Some of the nation's biggest drug companies are investing an increasing amount of resources toward finding treatments for the disease.

Panelists Tied to Study They're Probing

Six of the nine scientists serving on an expert medical panel investigating a U.S.-funded AIDS study are receiving grant money from the agency at the center of the probe, according to documents and interviews.

Cost Keeping Seniors from Dental Care

Cost is the major barrier that prevents many seniors from getting the dental care they need, according to a new study.

ADHD Treatment Improves Teens' Grades, Confidence

Treating teens diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) boosts their grades, provides higher self-esteem and improves family relationships, according to the results of a new U.S. survey.

Health Tip: Bird Flu Is Nothing To Sneeze At

At least 45 people have died recently in Southeast Asia from avian influenza, better known as bird flu. The World Health Organization offers these suggestions if you're traveling to the continent, especially to rural areas:

Avoid contact with chickens, ducks or other poultry unless absolutely necessary.

Children are at high risk if they play where poultry are found. Teach your children these basic guidelines: avoid contact with any birds, their feathers, feces, or other waste; wash hands with soap and water after any contact; do not sleep near poultry.

Do not transport live or dead chickens, ducks or other poultry from one place to another even if you think the birds are healthy.

Do not prepare poultry from affected areas as food for your family or animals.

If you unintentionally come into contact with poultry that could be infected, wash your hands well with soap and water after each contact; remove shoes outside the house and clean them of dirt; and check your temperature for seven days at least once daily. If you develop a high fever, visit a doctor or the nearest health-care facility immediately.

Health Tip: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by prolonged contact with almost any liquid other than water. The condition can stem from putting your baby to bed with a bottle of formula, milk, juice, soda or other soft drink, or by allowing your baby to suck on a bottle or breast-feed for a prolonged period, either while awake or asleep.

Take these steps to help prevent decay, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Never put your child to bed with a bottle.
Only give your baby a bottle during meals.
Teach your child to drink from a cup as soon as possible, usually by age one.
Keep your baby's mouth clean.
Use water and a soft child-sized toothbrush for daily cleaning once your child has seven to eight teeth.

By the time your toddler is 2, you should be brushing his teeth once or twice a day, preferably after breakfast and before bedtime. Once you are sure your child will not swallow toothpaste, you should begin using one that contains fluoride.

Herbal Supplements Largely Untested in Kids

As the primary users of herbal remedies, more women are giving botanical medicines to their children for various ailments. But science has come up short on evidence that these popular herbal remedies actually work for kids.

Many Women Would Like to Pick Sex of Child

Four out of 10 women being treated for infertility said they would choose the gender of their next baby if they were given the option, according to a new study.

Anger Hurts Younger Hearts

High levels of anger may help drive coronary artery disease in many patients under 50 years of age, researchers say.

How Lifesaving Transplants Turned Deadly

Almost a year after rabies turned potentially lifesaving organ transplants into a death sentence for four people, scientists are evaluating what went wrong and what could be done to improve the system.

Suffering and poverty as forgotten parasite sucks blood of China's farmers

In the lush tropical countryside around Wanning city in south China's island province of Hainan a silent killer lurks, causing immense human suffering and exacting an awesome toll on the local economy.

Hookworm, a one-centimeter-long (0.4-inch-long) parasite named after the tooth it uses to latch onto the small intestine of its victims, is considered one of the great forgotten plagues of the early 21st century.

"It's very widespread in rural areas around here," said a doctor surnamed Li at the Wanning City People's Hospital. "Many of the patients are children."

Hong Kong food poisoning cases rise to 31

Seven more people have been hit with a rare form of food poisoning after eating contaminated scallops, taking the number of reported cases to 31 since the weekend.

India to launch satellite exclusively for telemedicine

India plans to launch a communications satellite exclusively for health care so patients and doctors in remote rural areas can consult specialists in cities, the head of the country's space agency told reporters.

Zimbabwe plans for food imports after poor harvest

Zimbabwe, which told international relief agencies just under a year ago that it had enough food stocks, announced that it was importing grain in the wake of a disappointing harvest.

Ethiopians clamor to call country's first toll-free AIDS hotline

Thousands of Ethiopians are taking advantage of a new toll-free telephone hotline to educate themselves about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, how to avoid getting it and how to treat it.
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